Summertime is here, and with it, grilling season. As the weather warms up, it’s time to move dinner outside, fire up the grill, and enjoy the flavor of charbroiled meats, vegetables, and even fruits.
The key to getting the perfect grilled dinner is buying the perfect grill. While gas is popular because it’s easy to control, real grill aficionados know that you can only get the satisfying flavor you crave by cooking with charcoal.
Of course, there are lots of charcoal grills available. It can be hard to know which one is the right choice for your grilling needs – which is why we’ve taken the time to evaluate them for you. Before we reveal our picks for the top 10 best charcoal grills on the market, let’s look at some of the key features to consider before buying.
What to Look for in a Charcoal Grill
If you want the meals you prepare to be perfect, then you have to find the perfect grill. Here are some things to consider:
- The cooking area of the grill determines how large a meal you can prepare for it. If you have a large family, you’ll need a big grill to accommodate their needs.
- Keep in mind that many manufacturers include the total cooking area – including the warming rack – in their measurements. You can’t grill a steak on the warming rack so you’ll want to pay attention to the main cooking area.
- You need enough headroom on the grill to cook large items if you want to be able to grill a turkey or another large cut of meat. A good rule of thumb is to look for grills with at least a foot of head room.
- A charcoal grill should have both a tight lid and a damper so you can control the temperature and create different cooking zones to suit your needs. That way, you can caramelize onions in a pan over low heat and char that jerk chicken until it’s as dark as you want it – at the same time.
- If you plan to take your charcoal grill with you when you go camping or to the beach, then portability will be an issue too. Many charcoal grills have wheels for easy transport, and there are some small ones that you can take with you anywhere you want to go.
- Finally, you’ll have to consider the cost of your grill. Many grills come with built-in thermometers and gauges, but in many cases, you may want to budget for a high-quality thermometer to guarantee that you have the right temperature to cook your meals.
Best Charcoal Grills in 2021
We’ve tried to include grills at a variety of price points so there’s something for everybody. And now, without further ado, here are our picks for the top 10 best charcoal grills in 2021.
Last update on 2021-04-22 / Affiliate links / Price / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10. Blackstone 3-in-1 Kabob Charcoal Grill, Barbecue, Smoker, With Automatic Rotisserie
The first pick on our list is the 3-in-1 Charcoal Grill from Blackstone. This makes our list for its versatility – it’s like having a whole kitchen on your back patio. It’s got plenty of space for traditional grilling, but what sets this grill apart is the other things it can do. First, it’s got a built-in rotisserie/kebab system so you can roast meats instead of just grilling them. It also features an adjustable mesquite layer and a tight lid so you can use it to smoke meat, too.
There are a few potential downsides with this grill. The first is that the rotisserie features operates on electricity so you will need an extension cord to use it. The second is that the skewers themselves are small and can sometimes be difficult to reattach after removing them. The paint job could be better too since the paint has a tendency to flake off the outside of the grill.
9. Char-Broil Charcoal Grill
The #9 item on our list is the Char-Broil Charcoal Grill. We like this grill because it has a full 480 square inches of the primary cooking surface, plus an additional 100 square inches of porcelain as a secondary surface. The front-situated cast iron door makes it easy to check the fire without cooling down your food. This grill is very affordably priced for people who want a large grill and don’t want to pay a fortune for it.
One thing we don’t like about this grill is that it’s not that easy to put together. The instructions are a bit confusing and it takes longer than it should. Also, the frame that holds the charcoal tray is not sturdily built and it’s important to be careful when removing it.
8. Cuisinart CCG-190RB Portable Charcoal Grill
Coming in at #8 on our list is the Cuisinart CCG-190RB Portable Charcoal Grill. Anybody who lives in an apartment or simply wants a grill that’s small enough to take with them should consider this grill. We like it because, despite its small size, it provides 150 square inches of cooking space, enough for a whole family’s worth of burgers. We also like its dual-venting system, which makes it easy to control the temperature and the fact that the lid locks for transportation.
On the downside, opening the bottom vent can be a bit tricky because it’s so close to the ground. In fact, we’d like it if this grill came with leg extensions to provide the option of raising it. It’s also worth noting that the legs of the grill can be a bit wobbly, but adding rubber “shoes” to them can help.
7. Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal Grill
The #7 pick on our list is another small grill, the Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal Grill. We like this grill because it provides 228 square inches of cooking space, but it folds down to a one-inch height for storage and transportation. That makes this grill perfect for camping and tailgating.
The biggest negative with this grill is that its simple construction means that you can’t ventilate it to prolong the life of your fire. It’s not the right grill for slow-cooking or for grilling large cuts of meat. It is very lightweight, which is a plus, but as a whole, this is not a particularly sturdy grill. Keep that in mind when deciding what to cook on it.
6. Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill and Side Fire Box
Coming in at #6 on our list is the Char-Griller 2-2424 Table Top Charcoal Grill. This is another small grill, but one that offers quite a few features that make it special. It’s sturdily built with cast iron cooking grates and 250 square inches of cooking space. You can also use it as smoker thanks to the offset fire box.
There are some things that could be better about this grill. The first is that the paint is not durable. If you get the grill above 500 degrees the paint will turn to carbon. The second is that you can use it as either a grill OR a smoker, not both. If you convert it to a smoker you can’t switch it back to a grill. When using it as a smoker, you may find that the fire box leaks a bit, although it’s easy enough to fix with some HVAC tape.
Click here for Top 10 Affordable Electric Grills in 2021
5. Char-Griller 16620 Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
The #5 item on our list is also from Char-Griller, the Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill, and Smoker. We chose this item because it has 314 inches of primary cooking space plus 133 inches of warming space, making it big enough to cook for a crowd. It’s sturdily made and features an easy-to-remove ash pan and double insulation for excellent heat control. A little charcoal or wood goes a long way on this grill and it’s also very affordable.
On the downside, this grill does take some getting used to. It may take you a while to start your fire and to learn how to control the temperature. However, we think the long learning curve is worth it for the results you get. The ashtray has a tendency to rust, but you can mitigate that by treating it before you use it. On the whole, this grill is an excellent choice for anybody who wants to grill without paying top dollar for a porcelain grill.
4. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman Charcoal Grill
Coming in at #4 on our list is the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Kettleman Charcoal Grill. We like this grill because it has a quality porcelain-coated cooking grate to protect your food. It has a simple but durable design with a total of 250 square inches of cooking space. The detailed instructions make it very easy to assemble, and it does a great job of conserving charcoal. The ashtray is removable for easy cleaning.
One issue we have with this grill is that it’s a bit difficult to move. The only handle is on the top which makes wheeling it around awkward. There is room for only one layer of charcoal – not much of an issue since this grill doesn’t use as much charcoal as some of the others on the market, but some people might like the versatility of using more for long cooking.
3. Weber 441001 Original Kettle 18-Inch Charcoal Grill
Our #3 pick is from Weber, perhaps the single most respected name in the world of grills. There are a lot of reasons to like this grill. First, it has 240 inches of cooking space on a steel-plated cooking plate. The vents are rust-resistant and sturdy, and the lid and bowl are coated with porcelain that’s baked at 1500 degrees for maximum durability. We also like that the handle is heat-resistant so you can move the grill easily.
This grill is great, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. This grill is the ideal size for groups of four or less, but if you’re cooking for a crowd you may want a larger model (or a second grill.) It’s not big enough to use to cook a whole turkey. We also wish that you could adjust the distance between the coals and the rack, but on the whole, this is a terrific grill.
2. Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
The #2 grill on our list is also from Weber, but it offers the option of portability. It’s the Weber 10020 Smokey Joe, and we like it because it’s efficient and the perfect size to bring camping or tailgating. The round cooking surface is big enough to cook burgers or chicken for a family of four, and the round lid means you can use it as a makeshift smoker, too.
On the downside, you can’t move this grill while it’s hot – at least, not without an oven mitt. The cleaning process could be easier since it doesn’t have a removable tray for the ashes. You should also plan on tightening the legs between uses since there is a risk of the grill tipping over.
1. Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill
It’s no surprise that the #1 grill on our list is the Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill. Everyone who owns it seems to love this grill, and we agree. It’s got a whopping 360 square inches of cooking space, making it big enough to cook for a crowd. The lid and bowl are both reinforced with porcelain, and the heat-resistant handles are reinforced with glass. It’s easy to control the temperature with the top and bottom vents, and the tight-sealing lid means you can use it as a smoker, too.
There isn’t much we don’t love about this grill, but you should keep in mind that the assembly instructions are all visual. Some people may prefer written instructions. This grill can reach very high temperatures, so if you like your steaks rare you should probably invest in a quality thermometer to prevent overcooking.
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Buying the right charcoal grill can mean the difference between a so-so summer and a great one. The 10 charcoal grills on this list offer something for everyone, whether you’re an apartment dweller, a tailgater, or feeding the hugest family on the block.